Monica Abbott

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Monica Abbott, Cat Osterman headline U.S. Olympic softball roster

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Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman, the last two pitchers for the U.S. softball team before the sport was cut from the Olympics in 2008, are the only two returning U.S. Olympians for softball’s return to the Games in Tokyo next summer.

Abbott and Osterman headline the 15-player roster named Sunday after selection trials this past week in Oklahoma City.

The U.S. will be a medal favorite in Tokyo, where both baseball and softball return to the Games after being voted off the program for 2012 and 2016. Baseball and softball will not be on the 2024 Paris Games and are not guaranteed to be on the Olympic program beyond that.

The Americans dramatically won the 2018 World Championship, beating Japan on a walk-off in the gold-medal game to clinch an Olympic berth. Japan will also compete as the host nation, along with Italy, Mexico, Canada and Australia.

In 2008, Japan beat the U.S. in what was, at the time, the last Olympic softball game. It marked the only time the U.S. failed to earn gold in the sport that debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Baseball and softball had already been voted off the program for 2012.

Osterman started that final, going five innings, before Abbott pitched the final two frames of a 3-1 loss. Japanese ace Yukiko Ueno, who threw a complete game, is still active, too.

The full U.S. Olympic softball team:

Monica Abbott
Ali Aguilar
Valerie Arioto
Ally Carda
Amanda Chidester
Rachel Garcia
Haylie McCleney
Michelle Moultrie
Dejah Mulipola
Aubree Munro
Bubba Nickles
Cat Osterman
Janie Reed
Delaney Spaulding
Kelsey Stewart

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MORE: Softball’s Olympic return will not include NCAA home run record holder

Osterman, Abbott headline 2019 USA Softball roster

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Cat Osterman has two Olympic medals and one of the most impressive resumes in her sport. That didn’t stop her from crying when she learned she’d made the 2019 USA Softball roster.

“I am not even too proud to say I bawled like a baby,” Osterman told ESPN. “I just cried.”

On Monday, USA Softball announced the 18 players who will compete in tournaments and events in the next few months before the roster is trimmed to 15 for the Pan American Games this summer.

Osterman, the youngest member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 2004, and Monica Abbott, Osterman’s teammate four years later in Beijing (and the youngest member of that team), are the only two with Olympic experience. The roster includes 13 members of the team that won the WSBC World Championship last summer (including Abbott), qualifying the U.S. for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Osterman and Abbott are two of the most accomplished women in softball: Abbott, 33, pitched a perfect game in an 8-0 victory over the Netherlands at the 2008 Beijing Games, where the U.S. finished with a silver medal. In 2016, the Salinas, California native signed the first $1 million contract in the National Pro Fastpitch League with the Scrap Yard Dawgs (the Texas-based team is now called Scrap Yard Fast Pitch and competes independently).

Osterman, 35, retired in 2015. But in October 2018, she announced her return to the sport, hoping to vie for a spot on the 2020 Olympic team. Currently a pitching coach at Texas State, she had her doubts about coming back to high-level competition: “I struggled in some parts [of the tryout] and felt like I was back to my old self in parts,” she told ESPN. “When you haven’t seen a hitter in a game situation in more than 1200 days, it’s going to take some getting used to.” But Osterman, who pitched in the 3-1 loss to Japan in the 2008 Beijing final, felt she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete for another Olympic spot. “Plain and simple, there’s unfinished business,” she posted on social media when announcing her comeback.

Selection to the 2019 roster does not guarantee players a spot on the Olympic team. USA Softball will conduct separate selection trials in the fall.

The sport will return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. U.S. women won three straight gold medals from 1996 to 2004 before losing to Japan at the Beijing Games.

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U.S. softball qualifies for Olympics, wins worlds on walk-off

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The U.S. qualified for softball’s return to the Olympics and won the world championship on an extra-inning walk-off Sunday.

Kelsey Stewart drove in the winning run in the 10th as the U.S. beat host Japan 7-6 to repeat as world champs. The Americans rallied from a 6-4 deficit in the last frame against Japanese star pitcher Yukiko Ueno.

“They always find a way to come back,” U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t get too wrapped up in what your swings looks like, what your pitch is supposed to do. Just play softball.'”

Softball is back on the Olympic program in Tokyo in 2020 after being cut following the 2008 Beijing Games.

The Americans qualified for the six-team Olympic tournament when Japan eliminated Canada from the world tournament in Japan earlier Sunday.

With Japan already qualified for the Tokyo Games as host nation, the U.S. clinched the lone berth available at worlds.

The U.S. and Japan met in the last seven Olympic and world championship finals dating to 2006, including Japan’s upset of the U.S. in the 2008 Olympic final.

The U.S. went 9-0 for the tournament, including beating Japan in the semifinals, 4-3 in eight innings, on Saturday.

Eriksen paid tribute to Ueno, who pitched a total of 17 innings between two games Sunday in hot and humid weather.

“There are not many pitchers who could do what she did,” he said. “It shows you how great she is. We got fortunate that she ran out of gas at the end, her ball wasn’t moving as much as it was in the last inning.”

Monica Abbott, the fifth U.S. pitcher used, picked up the win despite giving up two runs on one hit over the final two innings. Abbott, 33, is the only player on the U.S. team who played in the Beijing Olympics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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